THIS WAS AN INTERVIEW FOR A HUNGARIAN PUBLICATION: EKULTURA. THESE ARE MY ORIGINAL ANSWERS IN ENGLISH. YOU CAN READ THE HUNGARIAN TRANSLATION HERE.
1. When you finished the Saga of Darren Shan, you said that you have already written some parts for the sequel, but you don’t want to carry on with the series just yet. How long do we have to wait for The Cannibal King?
Indefinitely, I’m afraid. I had originally planned to write more than twenty books in that series, but as I was writing the, I realised it was primarily a coming of age story, and by the time of book 12, the character Darren had come to the natural end of his story arc. I tried taking it forward, but it just didn’t work, so I finished where the story demanded to finish. There’s a chance that I might one day create a sequel series, utilising some of the ideas I had in mind, but featuring a different main character. But if that does ever happen, it won’t be any time soon, as I am already at work on a new project, which I imagine will take several years to complete.
2. In 2006, a manga series, called Cirque du Freak was published. How did you like it?
I loved the manga! It appeared in Japan initially, in serial format, before it was collected and translated. I think the artist, Takahiro Arai, did an amazing job of staying faithful to the books but at the same time finding a way to make it work on its own terms as a manga. I highly recommend the manga, even to those who have already read the books.
3. The feature film adaptation of the first three Darren Shan books was not an immediate box-office hit. Are there any other films planned that are based either on the Darren Shan saga or other series?
Sadly, there are no sequels to the Cirque Du Freak movie in the pipeline. It didn’t do as well at the box office as the producers hoped, and they spent a lot of money to make it, so they ended up taking quite a heavy loss. I’m hopeful that we will one day be able to re-boot it with a different film or TV company. Regarding other works by me, I have recently agreed to option the film rights to Lady Of The Shades – one of my books for adult readers – to a movie producer in the UK, so if we’re lucky that will be turned into a film within the next few years.
4. Out of the three ‘paths’ or solutions from the saga, which is the one you like best? Kurda’s middle-of-the-road solution or the vampire/vampaneze domination?
I’m a big advocate of dialogue. I relish the diversity of our world, the different cultures and religions that various countries produce. I think it’s important that we stay in touch with one another, that we talk through our differences and problems, that we try to be understanding and respectful of those whose beliefs are not the same as our own. There’s room for all of us on this planet, as long we we behave humanely and with dignity. So, in short, I would have been a supporter of Kurda!
5. The second book from the Larten Crepsley series is just being published in Hungary. Why did you choose him as the main character for this series when there are several other fantastic minor characters that would all deserve their own standalone books?
I had not planned to write any books about any of the other characters in the Darren Shan Saga – I’m always wary of tie-in projects like prequels and sequels, as more often than not they are simply an excuse to make more money. But the character of Larten fascinated me. I didn’t know much about his past when I was writing my original Saga. After I’d finished it, I kept thinking about Larten, wondering what his life had been like before he met Darren, and how he had wound up separated from the vampire clan, having risen so highly in their ranks just a few decades earlier. In the end I felt compelled to sit down and tell his tale. That’s the way I always work. I never take anything into consideration except the story. When a book demands to be written by voices deep within my head, I listen to those voices and write it.
6. The Saga of Larten Crepsley seems much darker than the story of Darren Shan, as if the world it presents would be much harsher. Was it deliberate, or the story just weaved itself in this peculiar way?
I don’t think it’s actually any darker. But Larten is an adult for most of the storyline – it’s spread across the course of two hundred years – and adults have a different experience of the world than children. It was one of the challenges of writing this series – I knew it would have a more adult feel to it than Darren’s story, but I had to write it in a way that it would be acceptable to younger readers too. In the end I think I found the correct balance, although there’s no escaping the fact that this does have a different feel to it. But then again, for me that’s a positive thing – I don’t think there would be much point in writing a series that worked in exactly the same way as another series.
7. The Darren Shan saga is clearly a ‘coming of age’ story, but what is the main theme of the Crepsley-saga?
Well, it’s not as straightforward as Darren’s story arc, because it covers a much longer period of time. But the driving force behind it is Larten’s rise and fall. We know from the original books that something very bad happened to him, that forced him to sever all connections with the vampire clan, even though he was about to become a Vampire Prince. That forms the backbone of this series – I wanted to explain how he had beccome a vampire of high standing, and why he had walked away from the promise of ultimate power. I see these books like a Shakespearean tragedy – we know, with a play like Macbeth or Hamlet, that it will end in tears, but the interesting thing is why and how?
8. The Darren Shan books offer serious food for thought for young readers about friendship, honour and making stand for others. What is the message of the new saga? What do you feel is the most important aspect of the story?
It’s very similar in many ways. Again, the new books stress the importance of friendship, the need to be loyal to your allies, the importance of living an honourable life and showing respect for other people. But it also highlights the dangers of living a life of vengeance, of the pitfalls that lie in wait if we set out to seek revenge for wrongs that are committed against us. We saw that to an extent in The Saga Of Darren Shan, through the actions of Steve Leopard, but in this series I focus on it quite a lot more.
9. Do you plan to write more about the subtleties of the vampire world? Will there be a book about the early scheming of Des Tiny, or the origin of the vampires and the vampaneze?
No. There’s a chance, as I said earlier, that I might write a sequel series, set in the future, that focuses on the War Of The Scars and its outcome, but otherwise I don’t plan to return to that universe. I think a story always needs a very good dramatic reason to exist. It shouldn’t just be telling you more about characters you like.
10. After two long series, it was interesting to read your one-off novels like The Thin Executioner and Koyasan. Why did you feel that you have to write these two books?
They were just stories that presented themselves to me. I never write any more than I need. If I can tell a story in a single book, I will do that. If it needs ten or twelve books, then so be it. I’m always a slave to the story. I don’t do anything from a marketing or publishing point of view. I just tell stories that I feel that I have to tell.
11. You are currently working on the Zom-B series that has not been published in Hungary yet. Would you tell us a few words about its storyline?
It’s set in a world that has been over-run with zombies. But it doesn’t focus on the living survivors battling the living dead – I’ve tried to write about zombies in a very different way. The main character is a teenager called B Smith, whose father is a racist, and the series tackles all sorts of real-life issues, such as racism, the abuse of power, the rise of the far-right (especially relevant, unfortunately, after the recent European election), and religious zealotry, while at the same time documenting the downfall of mankind. It’s a very fast-paced, twist-packed, thought-provoking work. It’s stirred up more debate than any of my other books in the countries where it has been released, so hopefully it will be translated and released in Hungary in the near future, as I’d be intrigued to see what my fans there think of it…
12. Vampires, zombies, demons… you have already dealt with a lot of monsters from the horror inventory. Are there any other creatures on your mind that you would like to present in your books?
I’m not actually working my way through the monster lexicon, although I can see how it might seem that way! For me, the story always comes first. With Zom-B, I wanted to write about racism and the rise of right-wing parties, and zombies just seemed like the best way that I could do that without it becoming stiff and boring. My next series won’t be about any established monsters, but I can’t say antyhing else about it at the moment, since it is still in the very early stages of development.
13. I was very surprised when I found out that the publishers used the Hungarian front covers for the Kindle edition of the second and third book of The City Trilogy. Is it often the case that you feel that other, non-English covers are better than the ‘original’?
We’ve actually used all three of the Hungarian City covers for the Kindle editions, all across the world. I love when countries come up with their own covers, and it’s fascinating to compare them against one another. With the City books, I did think that the Hungarian covers worked better than the British covers, which is why I suggested we use them for the Kindle versions.
14. What do you think, in the long run, will you write more books under the name of Darren Shan or Darren Dash?
Oh, I’ll definitely write more books under the name of Darren Shan than Darren Dash – I’ve been so prolific over the last fifteen years, that even if I stopped writing as Darren Shan, I don’t think I’d be able to release as many books under the Darren Dash name! But I plan to write under both names going forward, books for younger readers as Darren Shan, books for older readers as Darren Dash. I actually started out that way in the beginning, with the intention of keeping the worlds of my adult and children’s books completely separate. My publishers across the world convinced me to try merging them, which is why I released The City books and Lady Of The Shades under the Darren Shan banner, but I never felt comfortable doing that, which is why I have now divided them. All future adult books that I write will be released as Darren Dash books.
15. The Hungarian fans are very excited about your arrival. How do you feel about returning to Hungary?
I’m very excited too! I’ve had an incredibly warm welcome on both of my previous visits to Hungary, and was lucky enough to be able to sign books for loads and loads of fans. It’s been six years since my last visit, so I’m very happy to be coming back. I’m hoping to meet some of those old fans again, as well as lots of new fans too. It’s going to be fun!